Michelle Gormley-McLaughlin: I did a laser cutting course so I could make my own kitchen - so far, I've made a chopping board and a key ring...

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Michelle Gormley-McLaughlin, former Ulster Women's Rugby player and walking guide with outdoor experts Far and Wild

Gail Bell

Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

Most days I wake up around 5.20am. I do a PT session followed by a walk. Usually, I am back in the gym for 7am and in work for around 9am.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Eggs and handful of prawns with spinach.


Tortilla wrap with salad and veg - sometimes chicken in it, sometimes veggie sausages.

Evening meal?

Fish with chunky chips and broccoli.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Yes, nutrition is definitely important, but sometimes my willpower is lacking. I take supplements such as iron, magnesium and a multi-vitamin.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I've been on a diet for about 20 years via Slimming World and WeightWatchers. I've also tried the Atkins diet, which was hard, being a veggie, and I have tried most others at some point or another. I now try to follow intermittent fasting, so I eat between 11am and 8pm.


Weekend treat?

Crisps and sometimes a takeaway. And a wee gin and tonic.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

I regularly train at the gym, walk and I play rugby. However, I work in the sport and outdoor industry, so canoeing, climbing and walking are also my hobbies.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Get up early and get it done. I am a big advocate for getting out and being in the outdoors. It is great for mental health and wellbeing. It has been great being part of the Sperrins Walking Programme. I have been helping to programme the variety of walks, for all abilities, across such a beautiful part of Northern Ireland and it has been amazing.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I absolutely loved school sports and I was fortunate to have the best PE teacher. It was my first introduction to the wonderful game of camogie.


Teetotal or tipple?

It has to be a tipple. This is either a cold pint of Peroni or a gin with elderflower.


Stairs or lift?

Stairs all the way. Every wee bit counts and it is important to keep moving.


What book are you currently reading?

I've just finished reading Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. I watched the film starring Reece Wetherspoon beforehand and it encouraged me to read the book which was a really great read.


Best Netflix?

At the minute, I have been catching up on Vikings. I've also just finished watching The Last Kingdom. I really enjoy gritty, historical saga dramas. The landscapes are also awesome to look at.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

During the pandemic, like most people, I was connecting with friends, family and work online. I had to learn quickly, as being online isn't somewhere I would naturally find myself. Having to teach online, I've realised I'm useless with technology and adapting to all the new methods like 'Teams'. However, I did adapt and I'm now not too bad at it all.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I bought a van pre-pandemic and I intend to convert it into a campervan. I did a CNC laser cutting course with the intention of making my own kitchen - so far, I've made a chopping board and a key ring.


How do you relax?

I have two dogs, so there's lots of walk and play with them. They really are the bosses. I also try to get outdoors as much as possible - even when I am not working. We have so many beautiful places across the Sperrin Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty filled with history and a great variety of walks. You really do think that you know everything about a place, but I am finding that I am discovering something new every week. I have my job to thank for that.


What are your goals for 2022/23?

The usual - to get fit… I also hope to do a triathlon next year.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

Usually, I get to sleep before 10pm. In the winter, that is probably earlier.


Biggest gripe?

Not doing all my academic and practical qualifications when I was younger. Getting the time and motivation now is difficult.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I have two kids, so my life revolves around them. I suppose it's just about having an adventure and making memories. I'm not so caught up on succeeding or climbing up the ladder with work any longer. Life is for living.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

It has definitely changed my attitude, especially when my daddy was hospitalised due to the virus. I am more aware of those with underlying conditions and how vulnerable they are. It's incumbent upon us all to keep ourselves as fit and healthy as possible so we can tackle these types of illness. Get yourself outdoors - there really is no better medicine.

Michelle Gormley McLaughlin has been helping deliver Far and Wild's Sperrins walking programme this September, starting again next March 2023. Details at